As a county economic development organization, it is important for the Jefferson County Development Authority to be transparent. While we try hard to communicate who we are, what we do, the services we have to offer, and the direction we are heading, there are many aspects of our operations that cannot be disclosed.
Everyone wants to know who’s expanding, how many jobs may be created, what businesses are coming to our area, where they will be located, etc. A majority of the time this information is classified. Having to be tight-lipped can create a delicate and often frustrating balancing act when attempting to demonstrate value in our organization.
Economic development is all about relationships, and trust is a key component to building a lasting relationship. When we work with a client who may be planning on relocating to our area or an existing business looking to expand or retain jobs, we work with such things as the company’s financials, ideas, secret ingredients, etc., that need to remain confidential. While having access to such things is important to the success of the project, these are items that certainly cannot be made public.
A large majority of economic development is retention, which is working with businesses who already exist in our community to stay in our community. In fact, 85 to 90 percent of economic growth comes from within your own community. Sometimes clients we are assisting are struggling with working capital, economic issues, trying to avoid lay-offs, or other issues which aren’t exactly things a company wants to make public.
How often have you heard of a specific store or restaurant that is rumored to be coming to town, only for it to never come to fruition? The rumor may have come from a seed of truth, but there are so many phases to the project that are sensitive that it’s important to keep things quiet until it’s a “done deal.” In order to control information and avoid miscommunication, many companies require confidentiality agreements with all parties involved before heading into the process.
The premature release of information may lead to serious ramifications and consequently terminate the project. Funding and/or incentives may be lost, a competing business could catch wind, or a land owner may unfairly increase the price once they learn about the interested party.
A great way for us to be able to share our progress without jeopardizing any project is through our annual reports, business success stories, new business profiles, labor and workforce statistics, and business development reports from our small business coach.
Economic development is a long-term strategy, aimed at creating and retaining jobs that lead to sustainable growth and a stable tax base. It is, however, a delicate process, and it’s important for us to be trusted by our clients to keep things in house until the time is right. So, as we at the JCDA do our best to tell our story, there truly are things we just cannot reveal. But it’s that discretion that has built trusted relationships with businesses and site consultants, fostering economic growth for Jefferson County.